Hauntings of the Underground Railroad
113 pages
English

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Hauntings of the Underground Railroad

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113 pages
English

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Description

Before the Civil War, a network of secret routes and safe houses crisscrossed the Midwest to help African Americans travel north to escape slavery. Although many slaves were able to escape to the safety of Canada, others met untimely deaths on the treacherous journey—and some of these unfortunates still linger, unable to rest in peace. InHauntings of the Underground Railroad: Ghosts of the Midwest, Jane Simon Ammeson investigates unforgettable and chilling tales of these restless ghosts that still walk the night. This unique collection includes true and gruesome stories, like the story of a lost toddler who wanders the woods near the Story Inn, eternally searching for the mother torn from him by slave hunters, or the tale of the Hannah House, where an overturned oil lamp sparked a fire that trapped slaves hiding in the basement and burned them alive. Brave visitors who visit the house, which is now a bed and breakfast, claim they can still hear voices moaning and crying from the basement.Ammeson also includes incredible true stories of daring escapes and close calls on the Underground Railroad. A fascinating and spine-tingling glimpse into our past,Hauntings of the Underground Railroadwill keep you up all night.


Preface
1. Phantom of the Cellar
2. Spirits of the Waters
3. Sold Down the River: The Reverse Underground Railroad
4. Lincoln Walks at Midnight
5. Outwitting the Devil
6. Ghostly Overload
7. A Room with a Ghoul
8. John Hunt Morgan
9. The Last Trip Home
10. Hauntings Along Michigan’s Underground Railroad Routes
11. The Conductor and the Slave: The Story of Levi Coffin and William Bush
12. Restless Spirits
13. There Should Be Ghosts!
Bibliography

Sujets

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Publié par
Date de parution 01 août 2017
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780253031297
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Exrait

H AUNTING S
OF THE
UNDERGROUND
RAILROAD
H AUNTING S
OF THE
UNDERGROUND
RAILROAD
Ghosts of the Midwest
JANE SIMON AMMESON
INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
iupress.indiana.edu
2017 by Jane Simon Ammeson
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Cataloging information is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-0-253-03128-0 (cloth)
ISBN 978-0-253-02982-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-253-03129-7 (ebook)
1 2 3 4 5 22 21 20 19 18 17
CONTENTS
PREFACE
1
Phantom of the Cellar
2
Spirits of the Waters
3
Sold down the River: The Reverse Underground Railroad
4
Lincoln Walks at Midnight
5
Outwitting the Devil
6
Ghostly Overload
7
A Room with a Ghoul
8
John Hunt Morgan
9
The Last Trip Home
10
Michigan s Haunted Underground Railroad
11
The Conductor and the Slave: The Story of Levi Coffin and William Bush
12
Restless Spirits
13
There Should Be Ghosts!
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
PREFACE
A COLD DAMP fog descends as the whistle of a steam locomotive sounds off in the distance. Clocks and watches stop, making time stand still as the nine-car Lincoln Special emerges into sight. This isn t the original Lincoln funeral train that left Washington, D.C., on April 21, 1865, carrying the bodies of the 16th president and his 11-year-old son on a 1,654-mile journey, the reverse of the one Lincoln had taken from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, D.C., in celebration of his election just four years earlier.
Instead, it s a ghost train, following the same schedule, arriving at each stop on the same day and time as on Lincoln s final journey. Want to see the Lincoln Special go by? Pick a former stop, preferably one where modern civilization seems far away, and wait. Funeral music and metal wheels on metal rails announce the arrival of the truly skeletal crew manning the engine house and stoking the fires as phantom Union soldiers continue, as they have for more than 150 years, to stand sentry over the coffin of their fallen president.
Just north of Indianapolis, in Westfield, a Union soldier walks the perimeter of the Anti-Slavery Friends Cemetery, stopping at a gravesite-that of a soldier slain in the last days of the war. Whose grave is he guarding? Is it that of a comrade gone too soon in battle? Or is it his own?


President Abraham Lincoln s hearse in Springfield, Illinois. On April 21, 1865, Lincoln s funeral train left Washington, D.C., on its 1,654-mile journey, traveling through 180 cities and 7 states, to Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln would be buried on May 4. But the president s burial wouldn t end the funeral train s travel. Each year the train, its mournful whistle sounding, journeys again along the same route, the casket still guarded by ghostly Union soldiers. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Before the Civil War, the Great Lake states had many trails to freedom for African Americans escaping slavery. It was a perilous journey, as slave hunters offering large bounties for the return of property pursued them, and laws made those who helped slaves subject to harsh fines, loss of property, and even imprisonment. But freedom overrode all concerns and slaves ran away, crossing into Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin on to Canada, where slavery was illegal; these concerns also didn t stop those helpers who believed in a higher cause than manmade laws-be it attributed to a higher being or their own conscience and sense of justice.


One of the most haunted Civil War cemeteries, the Confederate Stockade Cemetery is located on the three-hundred-acre Johnson s Island in Lake Erie, near Sandusky, Ohio. A prison that housed approximately fifteen thousand Confederate soldiers was on Johnson s Island. The ghosts of many, including the two hundred buried there, engage in phantom battles and march along with the living during Memorial Day parades. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
In 1831, Tice Davids, a slave from Maysville, Kentucky, swam across the Ohio River to the free state of Ohio. His owner, following closely behind in a skiff, came ashore shortly after Davids did. But the slave had already disappeared and all those whom the slave owner questioned denied having seen Davids.
He must have gone on some underground road, the slave master said, and thus the Underground Railroad, or, for short, UGRR, came to mean the complex spiderlike system of trails African Americans followed as they made their way north.


Though they look like the ghostly remains of stunted trees, these structures are really chimneys for the rathskeller at McCourtie Park in Somerset, Michigan, a stop on the Underground Railroad. Photo courtesy of Jane Simon Ammeson.
Stationmasters oversaw the depots which were homes and businesses offering shelter, a place to rest and eat; stockholders contributed money and goods; and the conductors helped fugitives move from one station to the next.
Together these people were the counterforce to slave owners and the institution of slavery-men and women not interested in money but in justice. And what they achieved is legendary.
With two children dead and buried, the thought of her last remaining child being sold into slavery made Eliza Harris determined, no matter the danger, to make her way from Kentucky to Canada and freedom. And so, late one night, Harris bundled up her two-year-old daughter and crossed the winter landscape to the shores of the Ohio River.
Her plan was to walk across the frozen waters, but a thaw had turned the solid ice into chunks. When the weather didn t change and with her pursuers getting closer, Harris took the risk, wading into the freezing water, climbing on and off ice floes drifting along the wide river until she miraculously found her way to Indiana soil.


The former home of Nathaniel Hanson, owner of Alton Machine Shop Foundry and a fierce abolitionist, has passageways and rooms fifteen feet below street level, providing shelter for runaways. The building later became the Enos Sanitarium, and now, crowded with ghosts, it is the Enos Apartments, often included on tours of Haunted Alton. Photo courtesy of Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Harris s journey was far from over. Because of the success of the Underground Railroad, the Fugitive Acts were broadened in 1850, and anyone assisting or helping hide fugitive slaves could be sent to prison and fined $1,000-almost $50,000 in today s currency. Slave hunters also were allowed to come north into free states and capture runaways; it was bounty hunting with huge financial rewards.
Luckily, Harris had come ashore in just the right spot-not far from the home of Quaker Levi Coffin, a successful merchant who had earned the nickname president of the Underground Railroad.
Levi and Catharine Coffin, who lived in southeastern Indiana, believed so fervently in the antislavery movement that they helped an estimated two thousand slaves escape. Now their home-a two-story, eight-room red-brick house built in 1839 in Fountain City near Richmond-is a national historic landmark and was named one of the top twenty-five historic sites by the History Channel.
From this house, Harris and her daughter made their way to Canada, where they prospered. Years later, she would see the Coffins, who were visiting Ontario, and thank them for all that they had done. Harris s ordeal was immortalized when Harriet Beecher Stowe, a staunch abolitionist, retold her story in her novel Uncle Tom s Cabin , keeping the name the same. Thus, the world learned the horrors of slavery and Harris s bravery.
Slave hunters were not only greedy and cruel but cunning as well. Violent men, they used violence to achieve their means, and so Underground Railroad conductors like Levi Coffin had to be even more cunning. Tricks of the trade for Coffin and other conductors included false-bottomed carriages, wagons with boxes for concealment, hidden rooms, underground tunnels, and signals used to let others know when there was danger and when it was safe to move. Coffin, well versed in the law, also used his legal knowledge to defeat slave owners in court. Along with many others, he used his own money to help runaways gain freedom.
The Underground Railroad business increased as time advanced and it was attended with heavy expenses which I could not have borne had not my affairs been prosperous, he wrote in his 1876 book Reminiscences of Levi Coffin .
But for all those like the Coffins, willing to risk everything, there were others in free states whose sympathies were definitely Southern. Some even ran a reverse UGRR where free blacks were kidnapped and forced into slavery with the use of falsified papers and owners deep in the South who did not care about such technicalities as whether a man was free or not. Slavery was even legal in Illinois for certain reasons. Though it was a free state, representatives, pandering to wealthy men who had salt mine leases and complained about not finding enough free men willing to work (most likely because they didn t want to pay them fair wages for the grueling labor), made it legal for them to own slaves.
Running away into what was in many ways the unknown, slaves were vulnerable to disease, starvation, weather extremes, and other dangerous situations where something could, and frequently did, go very wrong indeed.
Thus the sounds of slaves dying in a fire at an Underground Railroad station, in what is now a historic bed-and-breakfast in Indianapolis, and the roaming ghost of a Union soldier killed in battle and buried in a mass grave, whose body was retrieved by his wealthy father and brought back home, are among many of the stories of hauntings along the Underground Railroad in the Great Lakes states.
Though I m not a historian by training, I come from a family of history buffs who can dig down into the minutiae with an amazing passion. Ask my brother how many electoral votes presidential candidate Alf Landon got, and he ll tell you and also name the states Landon won, while my father could recount which West Point class produced the most soldiers who first fought together in Mexico during the Mexican-American War and then on opposite sides during the War between the States.
In keeping as much historic accuracy as possible, I tried to take each of the stories in this book and trace its roots, sorting out, as best as I could, myth from reality-or as much reality as you can find on the Underground Railroad, where, because of its very nature, nothing much was recorded. And as far as ghost stories go, they are folkloric rather than hard history and thus undocumented, except in oral history and tradition.
But I tried my best, talking to historical societies, librarians, innkeepers, preservationists, restaurant owners, museum docents, paranormal investigators, authors of ghost books and tomes about the Underground Railroad, and anyone I could get in touch with who owned or was associated with a building or site said to be haunted by ghosts of the UGRR. I had the honor to meet Eileen Baker-Wall, whose great-great-grandfather, William Bush, was a runaway slave who found shelter at the home of Levi Coffin, maybe the greatest conductor on the Underground Railroad ever. Bush then went on to settle in Fountain City, Indiana, open a blacksmith shop, and become a conductor himself. I combed the digitalized archives-I subscribe to three, the New York Times Time-Machine, newspapers.com , and newspaperarchives.com , and also almost obsessively browsed Chronicling America, which is available for free through the Library of Congress and which has an amazing collection of periodicals from 1789 to 1924, and another free resource, Hoosier State Chronicles, a digitalized collection of newspapers throughout Indiana.
Of course I ve learned so much: how funeral practices were conducted back in the 1800s; how people lived and died (at least two of the people in my chapters died in horse-related accidents); and how many of these stories got reported by German newspapers-most likely because there was such a huge influx of German immigrants to the Midwest.
By talking to paranormal investigators such as Mary Barrett of Paranormal 911, I ve learned about ghost hunting, including the delicate communication between the living and dead and the equipment needed for a thorough investigation.
Why are some places haunted and others, with just as many reasons to host a ghost or two, not? I asked Barrett about the SS Argosy , a steamer that exploded on the Ohio River as it carried Union soldiers returning home at the end of the Civil War. Twelve men died and are buried in a mass grave on the Ohio. Why wasn t that place haunted?
Her reply was informative and helped me understand how hauntings-and thus stories-come to be.
It could be haunted but maybe it s such a lost piece of history that most ghost hunters haven t heard about it yet. Mary told me about the speck of a town once named Rono, after the postmaster s much beloved dog, and later changed to Magnet. Nearly every place holds at least some residual energy. Though not all places have intelligent spirits. Our team might take a road trip down there to see what we can find.
I hope she goes soon as I d like to be a part of a newly discovered haunting.
Oh, and what, you may ask, are intelligent spirits? Barrett explained this to me as well. It s the type of haunting where the spiritual entity is aware of its surroundings and able to communicate in some way. They re typically not malevolent but instead are like most of us. All they want is some appreciation and respect.
Indeed, stories of malicious hauntings were rare in the stories I gathered. A few chased people, gave a push or two, and were generally unpleasant. But for the most part, it was interesting how quickly ghosts adapted to the people around them, seen here and there and just as quickly gone.
Now it comes to thanking people, and I am so anxious I left someone out from this very long list. If I did, I am so terribly sorry. It was more about making my deadline than not realizing how important you were to all this.
Thanks to Ashley Runyon and Peggy Solic, my editors at Indiana University Press, for making this book possible. A big shout-out to Kathy Neff, my editor at AAA Magazine Hoosier Edition, who gave me my first assignment to write about the Underground Railroad, which opened up this amazing history to me, and to Nancy Sartain, leisure marketing director, Richmond-Wayne County Convention Tourism Bureau, who introduced me to the UGRR in her part of the state, including the Levi Coffin home.
Others who gave me invaluable assistance are (in no particular order):
Marty Bacon, manager, Slippery Noodle Inn, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Eileen Baker-Wall, great-great-granddaughter of William Bush and volunteer at the Levi Coffin State Historic Site and Interpretative Center.
Tony Barger, Putnam County Public Library.
Barbara Bradley, owner, National House, Marshall, Indiana.
Jeffrey Cole, trustee, G. W. Adams Educational Center.
Tony Collignon, Perry County historian and president of the Perry County Historical Society.
Susan Collins, my coauthor for the book Marshall, Indiana .
Helen Einhaus, Ripley County, Indiana, historian.
Tom and Melody Fucik, owners, Millstone of Iola Mill, Iola, Wisconsin.
Fred Griffin, who, before he died, shared stories his grandmother had told him about Morgan s raid.
Cathy Hoben, whom I met on Isla de Ixtapa and talked to about the Underground Railroad stories she remembered from growing up in Adrian, Michigan.
John Johnson, M.D., owner, Inn at Aberdeen.
Mike Kienzler, historian and researcher, Sangamon County Historical Society.
Michael and Nicole Kobrowski, authors, owners of Indiana Ghost Walks and Tours.
John Koch, member of McCourtie Park, Somerset, Michigan.
Eva Lindsay, Genealogy Department, Spencer County Public Library.
Scott Lonuerer, owner, Hannah House, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Betty Manning, whose family owns Stream Cliff Farms and who showed me the fireplace where John Hunt Morgan found the hidden treasures of the home s first owner.
Mark Marimen, author of several books about Indiana hauntings.
Janice McGuire, volunteer for forty years at the Levi Coffin State Historic Site and Interpretative Center.
Brad Mikulka, leader of the Lansing-based SouthEast Michigan Ghost Hunters Society.
Melanie Miller, resident of Rockport, Indiana, who owns an 1840 home that was part of the Underground Railroad, though we don t know if it s haunted or not.
William T. Miller, Southern Indiana Paranormal Investigators.
Lisa Harris Mock, executive director, Putnam County Museum.
Garret Moffett, Lincoln s Ghost Walk, Springfield, Illinois.
Craig Nehring, founder, Fox Valley Ghost Hunters.
Becky Nelson, Alton Visitors Bureau.
Diane Coon Perrine, historian.
Megan Renfro, Putnam County Museum.
Stacey Schulte, owner, Rockport Inn.
Linda Simon, my coauthor for the book Miller Beach .
Ruth Slottag, president, Sangamon County Historical Society, Illinois.
Troy Taylor, author.
Larry Tiffin, Putnam County historian.
Wanda Willis, author, whom I interviewed before her death.
Hal Yeagy, owner, Slippery Noodle Inn, Indianapolis, Indiana.
And my children, Evan and Nia Ammeson, whom I love more than anything.
H AUNTING S
OF THE
UNDERGROUND
RAILROAD
ONE
Phantom of the Cellar
SLIPPERY NOODLE INN INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA
A type of ghostly meet-and-greet place, the Slippery Noodle Inn on South Meridian Street in Indianapolis has attracted an assortment of spirit residents for more than 170 years. It s a former stop on the Underground Railroad, and at least one of those haunting the place is a runaway slave.
We ve got a lot of ghosts, says owner Hal Yeagy. That s because a lot has happened here since the place opened.
Indeed, this is the oldest bar in the state, and there seems to be no end to the phantom-producing incidents, which Yeagy is more than happy to list.
In 1912, one of the customers got into a fight with another customer over a girl and stabbed him, leaving the bloody knife on the bar, says Yeagy, whose parents bought the business in 1963 when he was about six. Of course, when the police came, no one had seen a thing.
Add to that the suicide in the basement of a former owner, the death of a three-year-old who was playing with matches and caught on fire, and a customer who, after shooting another man, said in wonderment, I don t know why I did that. During Prohibition, both the Brady and the Dillinger gangs used what had been a livery in the back of the saloon for target practice. Pigs and cattle were slaughtered in the basement (you can still see the meat hooks used to hang the carcasses), and liquor was distilled and beer brewed down there as well.


In its more than 160 years in business, the Slippery Noodle Inn, a stop on the Underground Railroad, has attracted its share of ghosts, including George, a relic from the Underground Railroad days who stays in the basement. Photo courtesy of Hal Yeagy.
And while we re not saying he s haunting the place, back in the day, James Whitcomb Riley tipped more than a few drinks in the bar-not an atypical occurrence for the famed Hoosier poet.
There was a pumpkin patch between here and the train station just up the street and supposedly Riley, after drinking too much at the bar, fell asleep on his way home right in front of the pumpkins, says general manager Marty Bacon, who has worked at the Slippery Noodle for a quarter of a century. When he awoke amongst the pumpkins, he felt inspired and wrote his famous poem When the Frost Is on the Punkin.
Ah poetic inspiration comes from many sources.


Through the decades, staff at the Slippery Noodle Inn have learned to get along with the spirits, some of whom have been there longer than anyone else. Photo courtesy of Hal Yeagy.
Yeagy isn t sure how old the building is-Indianapolis title records from 1920 and before were mostly destroyed when the city flooded, he says-but he s been able to trace it back to 1850 when it was the Tremont House.
They were trying to be fancy with the name, he says, noting that it was a railroad hotel offering guests food, drink, and a place to stay.
Over the years, its name changed more than once. In the 1860s it became the Concordia House, named after the Concord , the first German Lutheran immigrant ship to land in the United States. The next name-the Germania House-continued to reflect the heritage both of the owners and of the patrons in this predominantly German section of Indianapolis. But when World War I started and being German wasn t necessarily cool, the owner, whose last name was Beck, dropped Germania and changed the name to Beck s Saloon. Before Prohibition, Walter Moore bought the business.
It became Moore s Saloon until Prohibition, so then they called it Moore s Restaurant but you could still drink, and then Prohibition ended and it was called Moore s Saloon again, says Yeagy.
Whatever the name, for a long time it functioned as a hotel as well as an eatery.
Guests slept in the small rooms off the long hallway on the second floor, where at the end there was a communal bathroom with an old claw-foot tub. We re not sure who was in charge of cleaning that tub; it s a subject we don t want to think about too much. By the mid-twentieth century some of these rooms were no longer used for sleeping but for working gals entertaining gentlemen in exchange for cash.
While UGRR sites are typically undocumented, the building itself yields clues as to its history as a stop on the Underground Railroad, says Yeagy.
The basement floor was dug down deeper than it needed to be, he says. And there are all sorts of little rooms that you kind of have to half bend over to get into.
There is even more proof. When Yeagy s parents, Harold and Lorean, were still running the place, a family came in. They had an ancestor who was a fugitive slave and they wanted to see what the inn looked like.
They said their relative had stayed here because it was a part of the Underground Railroad and they had these bits of a diary he d written talking about it, says Yeagy. It makes sense. Indiana was a free state and at the time we were located on the southern end of the city, which would be a good location. And near the railroad station, there were always a lot of people coming and going.
Though Yeagy has never actually seen an apparition, he s had lots of strange experiences at the Slippery Noodle.
When I took over in 1984 the place was literally just the front bar room where we had five or six bright orange booths and ice cream parlor stools, he says. The place was a mess. The ceiling upstairs was falling in. I was the only one working there and I still had my other job. I had people help and I was remodeling the back room. My girlfriend Carol at the time, now my wife, would help me. I had everything padlocked up, there were steel gates, which I would close. When we got back in the morning, the steel gates would be open and the two-by-fours I was using would be stacked up. It was scary the first few times but then I figured, what the heck.
Yeagy s felt the cold spots. When he s working late at night in his office on the second floor, the only person in the buildings, he hears footsteps, doors closing, and someone calling his name. The ghosts also have some tech skills-all the music on Yeagy s computer was deleted.
We had everything backed up but still, says Yeagy. A lot of things get moved around. But most of what I experience is just the overall feel of the place. I talk to the ghosts all the time.
When Yeagy s son Brian began posting about ghostly incidents on the Slippery Noodle s Twitter feed, the ghostly happenings increased to the point that Yeagy decided to delete the tweets.
We were just getting too much activity, he says. It was just getting them too riled up.
One time, things got a little strange-more than the usual activity and cold spots and things going bump in the night. No one knew exactly what was going on until they got a call from Carol Yeagy s sister. She s an empath, someone so in tune to other s feeling that it s painful for her to go out of the house.
She called us up, Yeagy says about his sister-in-law, and told us that a new ghost had moved in and he s scaring the other ghosts. She says I ll get him out, and within a few days, it was like a black veil being lifted or a dark cloud being blown away. Bad things stopped happening and the employees were happier.
As for Marty Bacon, well, he says he s been around so long (he started as a bouncer in 1991), he thinks the ghosts have come to know him. He says he talks to them sometimes and also leaves a shot of whiskey on the bar in case one of the spooks is thirsty. He s heard doors slamming and footsteps on the floorboards even when he was the only one in the building. Voices call his name, sometimes in a very demanding way.
The first time he was alone and something unusual happened, Bacon thought someone had hidden in the restaurant until everyone had left. So he searched, but no one was there. For the most part he s okay with the ghosts, but there s one he calls the shadow man, a shadowy apparition who creeps him out.
Our big music room used to be the stable where people would keep their horses when they d come in to get a drink or spend the night. Upstairs was the hayloft which are now offices and storage, says Bacon. One time I was leading a psychic and twenty people around and the psychic says there s the Boss and I m one of his employees.
He owned the stable and keeps his lockbox up here-he s a heavyset white guy with a pitted face, says Bacon, recalling the description the psychic gave them.
Turns out that the Boss didn t like Bacon-maybe he resented another boss being around.
The psychics-this one was from New Orleans-said the other spirits respected me except for the one guy, the Boss, and she said he bumps into you.
It gave me cold goosebumps, says Bacon. My grandmother used to say when that happened it was like someone had stepped on your grave.
The Boss needed a little help but was finally convinced to move on. But as one ghost leaves, more come, says Bacon.
According to the psychic from New Orleans, we ve been around so long, we ve become like a spirit magnet, he says. When they tear down one of the old houses around here, then the spirits come here because they re comfortable here and because we re old.
Though most of the people who work at the inn who ve experienced the ghostly ambience say the basement is the most haunted, Bacon finds that most of his experiences happen on the main floor in the back bar area or upstairs in the office. There s Sara, the apparition dressed in a long blue turn-of-the-last-century dress who is sad because one of her customers killed her. How do they know her name? Several staff members took an Ouija board to where the Lady in Blue hangs out-often upstairs where the hotel rooms were or on a balcony overlooking the stage. The planchette spelled out her name. The lady in blue was the madam of the bordello and she s angry because the place isn t the same anymore.
One employee heard pounding footsteps coming after him in the basement and started running for the stairs. The footsteps got louder and faster behind him, but once he got upstairs he was okay. The whole experience left him shaken. But, mostly, the ghosts are just part of the team working at the Noodle.
Bacon thinks he s figured out which ghost hails back to the Underground Railroad.
It s probably George, he says. George is an older black man in denim overalls and is down in the basement. One of the psychics says that he did odd jobs and helped people who were on the Underground Railroad get out.
George is a friendly spirit and doesn t bother anyone. Whether he s helping the same UGRR travelers as he did back then, Yeagy and Bacon don t know. He s just there. One of their beer distributors ran into George in the narrow hallway of the basement and when he went upstairs and asked about the other man, he was told there was no one down there but him.
He refuses to come back and all the guys he works with make fun of him, says Bacon.
A woman making deliveries also ran into George and she nodded at him and he nodded back. She found out later he was a ghost.
But George, Sara, and the other spirits don t bother Yeagy or Bacon. As for the other ghosts, now that the Boss and the spirit who was scaring the other spirits are gone, the two men are rather philosophical about the remaining spooks.
I figure they re a lot better than some customers, says Bacon. A ghost isn t going to drink my booze or take my money.
BONAPARTE S RETREAT NAPOLEON, INDIANA
Southeastern Indiana, with its scenic panoramas of the Ohio River, hillsides dotted with farms, and nineteenth-century towns, is a beautiful slice of Hoosier homeland, a seemingly placid and gentle place. But back in the mid-1800s, there were invisible trails through this pastoral prettiness, and it s estimated that there were some three hundred sites in southeastern Indiana where people hid or helped runaway slaves. Because the Underground Railroad was a secret organization that survived only by stealth, much of the history of those who helped, those who traveled its routes, and even where they stayed has been lost. But there are still remnants-a home here, a historic marker there-that tell the story.


Once known as the Railroad Inn, Bonaparte s Retreat in Napoleon, Indiana, was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Charlie, the ghost who lives in the basement, was a runaway slave who continued to help others make their way to freedom. Photo courtesy of Kendal Miller.


The Central House in Napoleon, Indiana, is said to be haunted by Underground Railroad ghosts. Photo courtesy of Kendal Miller.
And sometimes there s even more than that. In the small hamlet of Napoleon, William Love and William Howe bought a brick tavern in 1852. Like many new owners, they modified the 1832 building s design, adding a few special touches for their ultimate goal-becoming a station on the UGRR as it coursed through Ripley County.
Love renamed the tavern the Railroad House Hotel, a dig at slave seekers. The only railroad in the small town was the underground one. And even after all these years, both the physical and astral aspects of that time remain.
There s a dead space between two walls and then a hidden room and tunnel on the south side of the building that no one knew about, says former county historian Helen Einhaus about what is now a busy restaurant called Bonaparte s Retreat.
The room was only accessible by the trap door from inside the tavern-a drop of ten feet and a tunnel leading out to a millpond.
Unfortunately, though the tunnel and room are still there, the building is now a restaurant, continues Einhaus, who created, with historian Diane Perrine Coon, the five driving tours in Ripley County that follow the main routes of the UGGR. The owners can t let people in the basement.
But while visitors of the here and now can t frequent the basement, there are others who do so quite regularly and who also make their way through other floors of the building.
There s the Lady in White, who only haunts the kitchen, says Kayla Reynolds, who with her husband, Ron, owns Bonaparte s Retreat. Ghosts like kitchens and they also like steps, and my steps go straight down from the upstairs to the kitchen.
If Reynolds seems somewhat blas about the woman wearing white, it s because she s spent so much time with her since the couple purchased the restaurant. Harmless, this ghost comes and goes as she pleases, and staff there, even if at first they re startled and uneasy, get comfortable with her presence.
Mary Barrett s father grew up in Napoleon, and she still has relatives living there.
Some of my cousins were telling me about paranormal activity in town and at Bonaparte s, says Barrett, cofounder, with her husband, Sean, of Paranormal 911 Investigations, LLC.
About five years ago, Barrett talked to the then-owners, who okayed her team coming in and conducting an investigation.
That first night, we concentrated primarily on the double dug basement, says Barrett, who shared a video of what looked like a long night of waiting for ghostly happenings. The tunnel s entrance is boarded up and so you can t access it. But it was the place where there would have been the most activity, which is why we stayed nearby.
Ghost hunting requires a lot of scientific-sounding equipment, and Barrett explains what type of data they were able to collect during their first investigation at Bonaparte s. Their EMF meter, an instrument measuring the fluctuation in electromagnetic fields, was able to pick up voices, odd noises, and strange sounds. While staking out the dark basement ( lights out is a prerequisite when looking for ghosts), they felt the rush of ice cold breezes coming from-well, nowhere. As quickly as the drafts blew in, they d disappear again. Spirits have personalities, and one of the ghosts on the scene was rather feisty, developing a yen for a female paranormal investigator. But later research determined he wasn t from the UGRR days.
Back when the tunnel was accessible, it was part of a triad of buildings, including a livery that was just across the street and the Conwell House located about a block away.
Local historians report that slaves were transported in a false-bottom wagon hauling a pig, says Barrett. The pig was so used to the routine that it would automatically walk up into the wagon and wait for it to be loaded.
According to Barrett, the tunnel was built on a diagonal to the livery. When the wagon arrived, the driver would pull it inside the livery and the slaves would get out, descend into the tunnel, and walk under the road to the inn s basement, where they hid until it was time to take the next leg of their journey.
That, most likely, is how Charlie got into the basement at Bonaparte s Retreat.
One of the bartenders at Bonaparte s had repeatedly described seeing a black man at the bottom of the stairway, says Barrett about Charlie, a black man wearing bib overalls. Thought to be a runaway slave, he stays in the basement, frequently in the secret room, and other areas. No one is sure why he is still there, instead of continuing on with the other slaves, but Barrett has a theory.
We feel that Charlie s role when he was alive was to help others get to their next destination, but he didn t go himself as he s still around, says Barrett, noting that the TV show My Ghost Story filmed a segment on their Bonaparte s Retreat investigation, which is available on the show s website. We don t really know for certain if any of the male voices captured down there are his or not. That s because there are a lot of different voices-men, women, and children. For some reason Charlie is still here as if he s protecting other slaves and helping them. When you stand by the tunnel entrance, you periodically feel a rush of air pass by and the meters light up. We decided that was when they d open the tunnel doors so people could get in or out.
Interestingly, though there are many spirits roaming the entire building, most of those connected to the UGRR seem to haunt only the basement.
Besides doing their own investigations, Paranormal 911 often lent their equipment to others during the public ghost hunts they held. During these hunts, guests worked alongside them.
Other ghosts made their presence known at the inn during these times, says Barrett.
Ghosts from different eras and life situations seem to intermingle down in the basement, and while many were escaped slaves traveling north, others, such as the flirty gent, weren t part of the Underground Railroad but had other associations with the building.
Barrett tells about a young brother and sister who had lost their parents. The older sister was taking care of her brother as he apparently was paralyzed on one side or possibly missing a limb.
How do they know? Barrett says sometimes it s a process of elimination in trying to figure these things out. When the brother s spirit answered through the dowsing rods, only one limb moved; the other stayed completely still. The group also relied on empathic team members and guests who reported feeling a heaviness on one side of their bodies, just like the young boy would have felt.
Unlike the other equipment, dowsing rods don t really measure anything but instead are communication devices relying on spiritual energy to make them move and provide answers. When the rods move to form a cross, the answer to the question is yes. If they don t move or instead move apart, take it as a no.
The dowsing rods are only capable of answering questions that can be answered with a yes or no, she says. So, we have to get very creative with our questions at times, but we have been able to get them to spell names and indicate dates.
Another important piece of equipment is an Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) designed to pick up voices and sounds that generally can t be heard by the human ear.
Although there have been many investigations where we ve heard audible answers to our questions, she says, sometimes they pick up sounds we haven t heard.
Their EVP recordings taken in the basement also picked up a lot of voices as well as the sound of chains rattling.
Even in a place as crowded with visitors from the past as Bonaparte s Retreat, identifying who s who among the ghosts is actually pretty easy, says Barrett.
Just ask t